Airport Gestapo #5

. . . . previously, I’d behaved rather badly, I’m told, at Heathrow Airport security and been x-rayed, questioned and generally humiliated at many points throughout the airport. I maintain I was just tired and a wee bit grumpy from a 5 a.m. start.

English: The Calgary Stampede midway, with dow...
English: The Calgary Stampede midway, with downtown and the Calgary Tower in the background. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ten hours after escaping the claws of the airport security reich and having been awake for 20 hours we were welcomed to Calgary – the home of the Calgary Stampede – by Cowboy Bob standing at the top of an escalator in his ten gallon hat, a pleasing change from Stalag Heathrow.

The immigration officer, rather worryingly dressed in a bullet proof vest, was abrupt but business-like wording his short questions for the sleep-deprived and only detaining us for a few seconds.

The Canadian customs officer actually had a sense of humor and commiserated with us for being tired and many time zones from our departure point at Heathrow. It was all going smoothly for two weary travelers and we were still in good spirits at that stage.

Walking tentatively, gazing around and pushing a wayward cart loaded with two weight limit suitcases and two well overweight carry-ons, we must have looked suitably befuddled for an obliging uniformed aide to come to our rescue. “What is your destination?”

Helpfully, it was the only question our addled brains could answer, “Seattle.”

“You need U.S. Customs. It’s upstairs,” and she gave a stewardess-type sweep of the hand to direct us. With new found determination, we strode through the indicated automatic doors, through a lobby, past some shops and found ourselves out on the street at the taxi rank.

“This isn’t right.”

“No, it isn’t.” Stating the obvious is often a delaying tactic while we pull ourselves together. We headed back for the automatic doors and stopped short as they closed in our face, with a big red NO ENTRY symbol staring back at us. With little mental stamina left to guide us, we doggedly retraced our steps out onto the street again.

“This isn’t right.” Tiredness was limiting our vocabulary.

So there we stood, two dunderheads, two experienced trans-Atlantic travelers, who have hopped from London to Baltimore, Seattle and Phoenix, changing planes in New York, Reykjavik, Denver, Paris, Detroit, Toronto, Washington D.C., Montreal, Chicago, Copenhagen, Boston and Vancouver – some of the busiest airports in the world – and yet we stood outside at the curb at Calgary Airport at a complete loss at how to proceed.

“Let’s go back to the doors. We’ll wait for someone to come out,then shoot back in before they close.”

“But they’re no entry.”

“What do you suggest? Take a taxi to Seattle from here?”

Like a couple of illegal immigrants (technically we were as we stood on the street not having cleared immigration in Canada) we waited for someone on the right side of the doors to come out so we could bound through them. That someone was a flight attendant we recognized from our flight. “Can I help you?” he asked in a blessedly non-menacing way as we trespassed.

He took us through some unmarked doors, along a secret passage, pointed out an elevator, indicated a point on the ceiling where U.S. Customs should be “I think,” and disappeared into his phalanx of fellow Canadians.

With U.S. Customs within range, you’d think we’d be home and dry. I hope you’d be wishing us well at this point, or at least for an end to a seemingly endless tale, but there were more calamites to come.

. . . . to be continued.

[seattle]
Not there yet. Only several more annoying hoops to jump through![seattle] (Photo credit: lempel_ziv)
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62 thoughts on “Airport Gestapo #5

  1. What I found amusing is that you escaped the terminal before reaching customs. Sounds like a loophole in the system. The question is if you were able to do it, others could do it too. What’s to stop someone who doesn’t want to go through the security gestapo?

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    1. Yes we could have escaped without clearing customs but it would have been a long walk with ours cases to Seattle! But I take your point. Do you think next time we should try to sneak onto the tarmac and try to hide in a wheel well?

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      1. Noooo, but if it was that easy………….things could happen. I’ve been in airports were it’s a one way trip to customs with no options. In Russia it’s almost right after you get off the plane, they don’t play around. I’ve traveled to Israel, Turkey, and Cyprus and found it to be the same way. But I very much liked the story. I’ve traveled to Russia three times and know how long the ordeal was, so I understood your frustrations.

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          1. Exactly my feelings too. EU and Eurasia means your on the right continent. Anyway, it’s been great, will be visiting your blog more often. Until then…………Good luck and Godspeed.

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  2. Carol, what a great story! We had a similar experience recently and just stood there saying to each other, “Well, I didn’t see that going that way!” 🙂 Looking forward to the rest of the tale. ~Terri

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    1. I’m sure you have your share of airport tales to tell. I thought that if everyone could suffer vicariously through me they wouldn’t have to have the same experience. It didn’t work according to the comments I’ve had in Airport Gestapo #’s 1 to 5!

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    1. I was thinking Thursday unless I am coerced. Actually having some probs with Derek the laptop at the moment. I did a stupid thing on Internet Explorer before they put out their “fix.” Now on Chrome but the damage is done. I’m going to operate on him tomorrow but if I’m not successful he’ll have to go to the hospital.

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      1. Hey, I have now been on Chrome since the news about IE needing a fix. But tonight at one point I got a notice that Chrome had crashed!!!. I turned off my computer and luckily when i got back on it came back up ok!!!

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        1. Phew! Glad I missed that one. Unfortunately I stayed on IE a day too long and now have lots of annoying pop-ups. I’m going to try a fix tomorrow but I’m a but of an IT dummy so we’ll see . . . .

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      1. Yup!

        I found that being a flustered single mum helped the process! The day after Lyra’s first birthday, she and I flew alone to San Fran and I had all sorts of things I shouldn’t in my bag (requested by my sister – custard, mustard, marmite etc) and no one batted an eyelid and could not be more helpful!

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  3. … and the never-ending nightmare called What Not To Do will continue after this brief message ….
    …. do you suffer from embarrassing brain farts? … do they prevent you from making sound decisions? are you afraid to travel because of it? ….
    … stay tuned, because our intrepid travellers will be heading back to Europe later this year. Will we find out if they are now flagged on a security database? … 🙂 🙂 🙂

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